Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Ben Mankiewicz cracked this movie could be called Living Poets Society or Don't Lean On Me or Why Did I Expect To Learn Anything From A Ben Mankiewicz Intro on TCM, due to its supposed irreverence towards its lead compared to most films about tragic teachers. This ignores that The Browning Version still ends with rapturous applause and small, symbolic gestures of admiration towards the deposed educator in question. Though Crocker-Harris is a mediocre, unliked teacher, he sees the nobility in the profession and is hailed for it.
What's truly striking is that, unlike most films about broken spirits, there's no railing at the institutions that break them. We're shown the crimes committed against him by his indifferent peers and resentful wife - and the filmmakers never pretend these aren't crimes - but we aren't treated to any tantrums or finger-waving on the part of Crocker-Harris himself. Forced to confront his tragic situation, he's disappointed only in himself, realizing his own complicity in his soul-death before finding dignity in genuine, self-pitiless regret. I don't want to dismiss the valid, serious criticisms of social structures that drives the usual self-righteous fury in most works of this type, but to see a character accept any accountability is remarkably rare - maybe Nurse Ratched's story would have been more enlightening than McMurphy's.